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Street Talk

Take Care Of The Town We Love So Much

Bt Alexe van Beuren

Last week, Frances Stewart dropped by with a binder full of a lifetime spent in Water Valley. To my pleasure, she left the binder with me while she did some errands; (“I won’t leave it here for long,” she said. “This is the part of town that burns down.”)

There were many articles clipped out from newspapers about Water Valley in the early 1970s. Mrs. Stewart’s late husband was a long-time mayor whose accomplishments are still around today – the bypass and the airport, for starters.

One caught my attention. It is an article from the Journal written about Water Valley in July of 1972.

“Your first impression,” Norma Fields wrote, “is one of Cleanliness, with a capital “C”. An old town which keeps its face lifted.”

Ms. Fields went on to write about the new Yalobusha General Hospital, “probably the only one of its size in the state with a residential cardiologist.”

Of course, at the time, Water Valley had four manufacturing plants supporting its tax base: Big Yank, employing 600; Motts, employing 350; Ram Tool, employing 150; and a new one, Bondafoam, who had just started operations with 35 people. The industrial park had just been established, and BorgWarner (or Holly’s Carburetor’s, as it started out) hadn’t even moved in yet.

Nearly 40 years later, I can see that no town can rest on its laurels. Cleanliness isn’t a naturally long-lasting state of being; industry ebbs and flows; a town can be viewed as progressive one decade and termed as “left behind” in the next.

Which begs the question: what are we doing today to make Water Valley the way we want it to be?

I don’t think anyone here wants it to change into a place no one recognizes. There is great comfort in seeing the same faces at church, football games, civic events, and just out-and-about.

But houses don’t stay clean without anyone cleaning them. Industries don’t locate here without anyone working for them. And trees, “those enormous old shade trees” that Ms. Fields wrote about nearly forty years ago, don’t plant themselves.

So just as L.C. Stewart did his best for Water Valley decades ago, let all of us do our here-and-now best to take care of the town we love so much. Not for outsiders, or even the future generations, but for ourselves.

After all, we’re the ones who  live here.

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